Jack Leach out of second Test in India with Shoaib Bashir close to England debut

By Sports Desk January 31, 2024

Jack Leach has been ruled out of England’s second Test against India, pushing Somerset team-mate Shoaib Bashir one step closer to an international debut.

England will settle on their XI for Friday’s match in Visakhapatnam after taking a final look at the pitch, but will need to rethink in the absence of their senior spinner.

The 32-year-old was in visible discomfort for most of England’s remarkable victory in the first Test, where he played a restricted role, and finally gave in to the inevitable after sitting out Wednesday’s training session with bruising and swelling on his left knee.

“He’s ruled out of the second Test. Unfortunately the knock he took resulted in a haematoma,” said captain Ben Stokes, who hailed Leach as a “warrior” last week for struggling though the series-opener.

“It’s a big shame for us and a big shame for him. It’s something we’re assessing every day but the medical team have taken over on that so hopefully it’s not something too serious that keeps him out for longer.”

While Leach was an onlooker at nets, 20-year-old Bashir joined in for the first time since complications over his visa application were resolved.

Bashir racked up 10,000 unwanted air miles shuttling between Abu Dhabi, London and Hyderabad, where he arrived just in time to take in the final day of England’s audacious victory, and is now in the selection mix.

Record wicket-taker James Anderson is pushing hard for a recall, alongside or instead of fellow seamer Mark Wood, while Rehan Ahmed’s role could come into question after a quiet game with the ball.

But the fact that Bashir, who has a gossamer-thin first-class record of 10 wickets in six games at an average of 67, is being discussed shows just how far Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum are willing to push the envelope.

The success of the inexperienced Tom Hartley on debut last week, taking a second-innings seven-for to send his side 1-0 up, can only have emboldened Stokes.

It was him who first floated the youngster’s name six months ago after watching a video montage of Bashir bowling to former England captain Sir Alastair Cook on his first Somerset appearance.

“To be perfectly honest, our training camp in Abu Dhabi was the first real live look I got at Bash,” Stokes said.

“The first time I saw him was on Twitter. I think the County Championship put a little clip together of him bowling against Sir Alastair.

“I just saw something. With the height he bowled from, it was very obvious that he put a lot of action, a lot of revolutions, on the ball.

“I’m in a WhatsApp group with (director of cricket) Rob Key and Baz (McCullum). So I actually did forward the clip on and said, ‘Have a look at this, this could be something we could work with on our India tour’. It just progressed from there.”

Stokes realises how raw Bashir is and takes the responsibility of managing his fast-tracking to the international arena seriously.

“He’s a young kid who’s finding his way… I was about to say he’s finding his way in first-class cricket, but he’s on a Test tour now,” he said.

“He’s a real sponge at the moment and I think that’s because of how young he is. He’s got an unbelievable coach here in Jeetan Patel and he’s also got someone in Jack leach who is a massive help, particularly with their Somerset connection.

“If he was to play on this tour, the great thing he has going for him is what is there to lose? That is how I will be thinking about it if he gets the chance to play.

“Just make sure I give him the best experience I possibly can because you only play your first Test once. If he does play then I’ll be trying to make it as fun and enjoyable for him as I can.”

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